And They Thought He Was Yellow
WILLIAM ALMON WOLFF
April 15, 1924
SUBSCRIPTION: THREE DOLLARS A YEAR FIFTEEN CENTS A COPY
J. VERNON McKENZIE, Editor J. L. RUTLEDGE, Associate Editor
COPYRIGHT 1924 BY ThE MACLEAN PUBLISHING COMPANY, LIMITED VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER EIGHT
There was just that one thing in Pat Tredway. Trudy had laid her finger on it and so had others, who said he Was yellow, but Trudy knew better.
It Was just a kink of character, but she couldn’t marry him with the kink there. Then came the great game, the absolute, urgent need and—
PAT TREDWAY hadn’t particularly wanted to accept his invitation to the house party the Fleetwoods were giving for the Davis Cup matches, but he hadn’t known exactly how to refuse. One reason, of course, which he wasn’t keen about admitting to himself, was that Trudy Warriner was to be there, and chances to be with her, or even to see her, were not lightly to be thrown away.
But at dinner things moved in a way to make him sorry, even so, that he’d come. It wasn’t only Jimmy Fleetwood’s sudden liberality with his precious pre-war stuff, and the mellowing effect that had on the crowd; everything went wrong, grated on him. And he wasn’t fit to associate with his kind, anyway. He wasn’t anywhere near Trudy, but he could watch her, and she was absorbed in the chap next to her—a man Pat scarcely knew, but, on general principles didn’t like.
There was talk about tennis, naturally, and the matches that were to begin next day, and that, for Pat, was pretty hard to bear. Every once in a while, too, people remembered, and pointedly changed the subject; realized that it wasn’t, somehow, quite the thing to talk so before him, who wasn’t going to play.
For he wasn’t; every one knew that, definitely, now; knew that his selection as a member of the defending team, which had roused so much enthusiasm when it was announced, among thousands of followers of the game, who had believed for a long time that he was not getting a square deal, had been the emptiest of gestures—a sop to the crowd. All he could do for the next three days would be to sit on the club-house porch at Forest Hills and wdtch the play—watch Ted Morgan, whom he had beaten time and again, play the two singles matches in which he should, by right and justice, have had his chance. He could sit there and smile— lie with eyes and lips, take his medicine, be a good sport!
It was the way the thing had been done that rankled so. To wait so long— and then, at the last moment, throw him over! It had been bad enough the year before, when his name had been passed over altogether. They hadn’t dared to do that this year—to go quite so far.
His record had forced their hands to that extent. But still they had done this!
He couldn’t stand the crowd after dinner. It had turned cool, suddenly, after a day of blistering heat, and every one was full of energy. The latest thing in electrically-driven pianos was dispensing the most expensive of canned jazz; some one was inspired, presently, to rummage the attic for stuff for costumes and make a real party. And so Pat, watching his chance, slipped out on the veranda; found a chair in a dark spot; sat down, looking out over the ocean, watching a light, far away, that flashed white, and red, and white again.
As he sut, alone, he turned over and over in his mind all that had, in the last two or three years, led up to this climax of humiliation. Nothing, it seemed to him, had happened as he had dreamed it would—-as he had pictured it through the long years abroad, while he had looked forward, longingly, to the time when he should recover his birthright, come home to the America he had loved with the amazing passion known only to an expatriated boy.
He had never played in tournaments abroad; had been too young to do so. There he had learned tennis, though; learned it through years of practice, of play with and against the best professionals and teachers. And with his father he had seen all the great players of that time, at Wimbledon, and Nice, and all the other famous places where tennis history had been made.
There was something, it seemed to him, curiously and subtly different about the way they approached the
game, over there. There was lacking, there, a certain humorless fierceness that marked the men with whom he had been thrown at home, since his return. There was more— yes, fun was the word. It was better fun to play tennis, over there. They loved the game more for its own sake, less because of the chance it gave for triumph, for some desperate proof of skill and strength.
It was so, naturally enough, that he had been taught to regard the game. He had learned to make perfection his goal; to strive to make of each stroke a finished, flawless thing; to look at every ball, as it came toward him across the net, as something to be stroked in a certain way—in the right way. He had learned to disregard results; despite his youth to feel that, in the long run, one’s end was oftener achieved if one did that.
He could remember, vividly, one time at Wimbledon when, with his father, he had watched a great player losing to a tricky, shifty one—a man who had developed to an uncanny point the ability to drop a spinning, twisting ball just over the net. It had seemed to him that the great player was wrong to meet that game as he did; to refuse to abandon his own style and pay the other in his own coin.
NO, PAT,” his father had said. “He’s got to stick to his own game—he can’t care what happens to-day. It’s like—oh, sometimes, when you’re in a tight place, you could get out of it, just for the minute, by telling a lie, couldn’t you? And you don’t. You know it wouldn’t really pay, for one thing. You tell the truth and take your licking as it comes, don’t you?”
Youngster though he had been, Pat had seen the point, and he had always remembered that—and the way the ranking player, though beaten that day, had, later, taken his revenge; how, knowing what to expect, he had, the next time he met his conqueror, dazzled him by sheer speed, made his tricks look as ridiculous as they were impotent.
Yet, here at home, it seemed to Pat now, they would have sided against his father. They would have praised the game that won, no matter how the victory was achieved. They regarded victory as the supreme, the final, the only real test of merit. It was the answer to all questions; the one sure factor that resolved all doubts. They had turned against him because, with him, that was not so; because, in his eyes, the game, the play itself, was the great thing. Because of that they had denied him what he most craved and wanted—the right to play for America in the hour of her need.
The sound of some one coming around the corner of the house, roused him; angered him. Lord—couldn’t they leave him alone? He sat still, hoping Tie would not be noticed. His eyes peered through the darkness. And then he saw that it was a woman who came, all in white, and, just an instant later, caught his breath. Trudy! It didn’t matter how she treated him; something about her set his pulses leaping.
“Hello!” she said. “Who’s that?”
Then, as he rose, she knew him.
“Oh—you, Pat? Did you cut and run, too? I hate these married crowds. They always get rough, and it’s such a strain, remembering what a young girl isn’t supposed to understand!”
“Yes?” he said. “I see—it must be—”
“Oh, no, you don’t!” she said, cheerfully. “You don’t see at all. You’re an awful dumbbell, Pat—but I’m rather glad you are! It’s a change, anyway. You’re sort of funny and old-fashioned, aren’t you?”
She swung herself up to sit on the rail of the veranda, so that she looked down toward him when he dropped into his chair again.
“I don’t know that I am,” he said, stiffly.
“Well, take it from me—you are! I don’t know why they asked me to this show. I’m bored to death. Of course, after to-morrow there’ll be the tennis—”
She must have felt the way he winced.
“You didn’t seem to be bored at dinner,” he said, after a moment.
“I always said I was a good actress! Bored! When I had to pretend to be interested in all the reasons Steve Bennett has for thinking he’s in love with Enid—which he isn’t=”
“Of course she is—mais nous avons change tout cela! You’d never even think you were in love with a married woman, though, would you, Pat?”
“I’m in love with you, Trudy,’ he said.
“Oh, so you are! Stop it, Pat—turn it off! I don’t want any one to be in love with me to-night!”
“Sorry! I’ll clear out—”
“Sit down, Pat! Don’t be so—thick! I want to talk. Not about that, though. And you needn’t think I’m going to let you go off and sulk by yourself somewhere else, when I came out just to stop you.”
“I wasn’t sulking—”
“You were, too! Feeling sorry for yourself because you’re not going to play to-morrow! Let’s talk about that-”
“I’d rather not, Trudy.”
“I know it! You think I m a beast, don’t you? Maybe I am—but you’ve come home to spend the rest of your life with a lot of other beasts just like me, and you might as well get used to us. You think you’ve had an awfully raw deal, don’t you?”
“I—yes, I suppose I do—I have--”
“You’re wrong. They couldn’t do anything but what they did. Look here, Pat— you might just as well have this out. You’ve got to see that it’s your own fault this has happened, somehow. Or else—well, you might as well go back and spend the rest of your life hanging
around in Europe—until there’s another war. You--”
“I can’t see-”
“Don’t I know you can’t? But, Pat—this is a showdown for you. You’ve got to stand up to this. You—well, you haven’t got any of the things you want, have you? Playing on the teammaking good here at home —getting—well—me?”
“You!” he said. “I— you’re not in this—I’d rather leave you out of all
“Oh, Pat— you can’t!
Oh, I know I said I didn’t want to talk about your— loving me. But we’ve got to. It’s all mixed up together. Why do you suppose I—turned you down?”
“Why—•” He stood up to consider that. “Why—
I suppose—you didn’t care, Trudy, dear. I haven’t any right to ask you why—”
“But you have! Oh,
Pat—you haven’t any right not to! You ought to drag it out of me!
You’re—you’re such a fool!”
He stared at her, hurt, half angry.
CARE!” she said.
“Pat—” Something in her voice in that moment thrilled him as he had never, in all his life, been thrilled. “Oh, Pat— you said the—the other night—that you loved me the very first minute you ever saw me—that you knew, then. I know you did, Pat—I knew it then.
And if—if you’d taken me in your arms, then—that night—I’d have—”
“Trudy!” His voice rang out, wildly exultant; it rose above the muted music from within and the soft tumbling of the summer surf. “But then—”
She put his arms away as, hungrily, they sought to draw her to him.
He sank back into his chair, his face flushed.
“No,” she said. “Pat—you’ve got to listen. You’ve got to try to understand. I—yes, I care for you. I never dreamed I’d care so much for any one. I know there’s never going to be any one else—like you. And —I couldn’t marry you now if I knew not doing it would make me just crawl away and die for wanting you.”
He turned away for a moment, then came back to her. “Yes,” he said. “I’ve got to try to understand that, Trudy.”
“It’s because—because I can’t trust you—can’t depend on you—” She saw how he shrank away from her. “Oh, Pat—I know how that sounds! You don’t think I like hurting you, do you? But you’ve got to hear it— because it’s so. And, Pat, it’s—it’s the same thing that made them leave you out to-morrow—”
He exclaimed sharply, but she paid no attention to him.
“I—Pat—I love you. I do. I can tell you that, because it can’t change anything—just by itself. Not now. I’m crazy about you. I have been—oh, for ages! And they feel—oh, something like that about your tennis. They know what a wonder you are. Every one thought you were going to be champion, when you first came home. No one would be a bit surprised, even now, if you beat Bill Ransome at Philadelphia—if you were champion this year. They know you’re better than Ted Morgan— but when they had to have some one to count on, when there had to be some one who could go absolutely the limit to win one match from the Englishmen—they picked Ted and left you out. And I—I know they were right— “Because I’d have to do the same thing, Pat. I—sometime, I might marry some one else. But I’d still—love you—and not marry you, because I’d know I couldn’t depend on you for what I’d have to have when I was married—•”
“Trudy!” he said. His voice was shaken. “Oh, Trudy! What is it? Dear—can you make me see? I—I’ve got this far—just listening so far—I can see there must be something. But what—what is it?”
“It’s frightfully hard to say, Pat. I—I’m not sure I know myself. I—just sort of feel it, I think. Sometimes I think I know—and then it’s gone again. It—it seems to be a lot of little things—that don’t amount to anything by themselves—they just pile up. There was one thing I heard Ted Morgan say—after he’d beaten you, that time at Southampton. Some one congratulated him, and he laughed, and said beating you didn’t mean anything— that there wasn’t any satisfaction in it, because you always built up an alibi as you went along in a losing match—”
“But—Trudy—that’s the most poisonous rot! I—” “Wait a minute, Pat. I didn’t see just what he meant at first, and I asked him. And he said you made him feel that winning made so little difference to you that losing didn’t matter, either. And he said that wasn’t fair. And he said the worst of it was that if he said what he meant was that you just played for the sake of playing it sounded as if he were knocking you for being an awfully good sport—and that you really weren’t, at all.”
“It—Trudy, it just sounds silly, to me—”
“I know, but it isn’t! Listen—it’s like this. When you’re playing a match with any one, especially if they’re better than you are, you like to feel, if you do happen to beat him, that it was worth while—that he was doing his absolute best to keep you from winning. And Ted meant—he didn’t feel that way with you. That you sort of made it seem you could try harder, but you didn’t care —it wasn’t worth while—you wouldn’t give up playing your own way to win—■”
“I don’t think I would!” said Pat. “I don’t think one should.”
“Yes—and—you’re almost right, Pat! But you’re wrong, too, somehow. Because—oh—the men we think most of—the men like Bill Ransome and McLoughlin— they care more about winning than anything on earth—while they’re playing! Once they’re beaten they can laugh—they can realize then that it doesn’t matter so much—that the world’s going on just the same. But they can’t feel so while there’s still a chance for them to keep from being beaten —while the last point hasn’t been made against them! That’s the difference, Pat.”
She had really shaken him at last.
“I—I’d never thought of it just that way,” he said doubtfully. “I don’t know—there may be something in that, Trudy. You see—I’ve always been taught not tothink at all about winning or losing—not to care—”
“DUT you do care!” she insisted. “That’s just the D trouble—You and all the men who are like you docare—you care so much you won’t admit to yourselves that you do. That’s where you’re not honest, Pat. You’re afraid to let any one know how much you really care. So you act as if you didn’t. You won’t go easy when your drive goes wrong and every ball goes out—you won’t make sure of your second serve when you’ve made a fault first time—”
His lips grew tight.
“I can’t play that way— ’
“You could if you thought you had to! If you could ever feel that winning some match was the most important thing there was ever going to be in your whole life—”
“Ye—es,” he said, slowly. “I suppose I might then—”
“Well, then— Oh, Pat—I don’t suppose I can help, really. You’ve got to work it out by yourself. But I wanted you to know—not just sulk and think people weren’t being fair to you.”
“I know,” he said. “Trudy—I’m going to try mighty hard to see it the way you do—to see if you’re right.”
She slipped down from the rail.
“I’m tired,” she said. “I’m just going on up to bed. Good night, Pat.”
She gave him her hand, and suddenly as he held it, the touch of her fingers carried him away, and he took her in his arms, and held her close, his lips hovering over hers. But then he freed her without kissing her.
“Oh, Trudy!” he said. “My dear—I don’t know how—but I’m going to make you trust me—I’m going to have what’s mine—”
“Ah!” she said. “You shall have it, if it’s yours— there’s nothing in this world can keep it from you then—”
TT WAS pretty bad, the A next day, at Forest Hills. He had to watch the gathering of the great crowd; exchange greetings every ew minutes, with people he knew; watch Morgan and Ransome, while the stands were still just beginningto fill,goout to warm up; forced himself, indeed, to go out and volleywith Ransomewhen Morgan, who was to play
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first, and was inclined, anyway, to be a little stale, went in.
Trudy made a point of beckoning him to a seat she had saved beside her own on the porch when he came back to watch the play; they sat together while Morgan, rising to the very peak of his steady, unimaginative game, wore MacLagan, the second man on the British team, down in a furious five-set match-. For all the crowd that victory meant that the cup was safe for another year. No one doubted for a moment that Ransome would win both his matches.
But just an hour after Morgan and MacLagan had staggered from the court the whole situation had been changed. For Ransome, playing as well as he had ever done in his life, had been not only beaten, but utterly routed by Vassall, whom he had beaten half a dozen times. He had gone down in straight sets before a man who had, suddenly, unaccountably, risen to heights he had never before even given promise of scaling.
Trudy, stunned, shocked, like every one else there, turned to Pat.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Nothing. Vassall just saw it through —that’s all. He’s always played the sort of game that’s hardest for Bill to beat; Bill wants you to come up to the net and trade with him. I took two sets from him at Philadelphia last year playing just that way—and then he got me to the net and did me in.”
“It—it looks pretty bad, doesn’t it, Pat? I mean—we haven’t much chance in the doubles, have we?” , ■■
“No. I wish Ted were playing with Bill instead of Corthell. And—oh, Lord— I can’t see Ted keeping Vassall warm if he plays the way he did just now! Bill’ll beat Mac, of course—but that won’t do us any good—it’ll be all over by that time.”
Trudy said nothing.
“Lord—I wish I had a chance at Vassall!” Pat broke out, suddenly. “I—”
Something in Trudy’s eyes stopped him short, and he laughed, mirthlessly, and said nothing more. And that night, his mood having changed, he welcomed the gayety that still prevailed at the Fleetwood house; flung himself into every enterprise 1Jiat was proposed; didn’t see Trudy alone at all, really. He sat with her again the next day, though; watched, with her, Bill Ransome’s heroic but hopeless effort to stem the tide of sure defeat in the doubles. He did all that could have been asked of any man, but the British pair was one of the greatest that had ever played together, and the second day’s play ended with the challengers leading, two matches to one, and practically certain, now, to carry the trophy home with them.
Again, that night, Pat saw little of Trudy. But in the morning, early, they met on the beach; swam far out together; came back, ravenous, to eat their breakfast while most of their fellow guests were still asleep. And afterward they were looking through the papers when a servant came to tell Pat he was wanted on the telephone. There was an extension in the room; Pat used it.
“Hello!” he said. “Yes—Tredway. . . What’s that?...Oh, I say—not really!
What rotten luck! Tell him I’m—oh, Lord—there’s nothing to say, is there?. . . I’ll be over—of course—early. . .Right.
WHAT is it?” Trudy was staring at him as he turned from the instrument.
“Ted Morgan’s broken his ankle,” he said. “I’m to play Vassall this afternoon.” She just looked at him, as if she didn’t quite understand.
“Trudy!” he cried. “Oh, Trudy—you believe I’m going to make good, don’t you?”
P’or a moment she didn’t speak.
“I—I hope so, Pat,” she said. “Oh, Pat—I know you’ll try—”
For a moment his eyes held hers, almost pleading with her. Then he turned away, with a short laugh.
“All right!” he said. “I—I guess I can’t blame you for not knowing!”
“Pat—” But she stopped short with his name.
“It’s all right,” he said. “You’re perfectly right, Trudy. I’ve no right to ask for anything now. I’ve got my chance, anyway—poor old Ted!”
He drove over to Forest Hills early, and alone. He wanted to go over his rackets; see to his spikes; make sure'that everything was right. And he found there that the atmosphere of gloom, thick enough overnight, had only been deepened by Ted’s accident. In him, obviously, none of these men who talked to him had any confidence at all. Ransome was decent— but Ransome always was.
“Thanks,” he said. “I’ve never played him, but I’ve seen him a good deal.”
As he tried his rackets, turning one over to be restrung, having another tightened, there mounted in him, slowly, an anger that rosegradually to something like white heat. He heard some of the things that were being said; surmised others.
“Better than Ted, anyway?” he heard one man say. “Of course he is! He’s better than any one when he’s right! But— he’s yellow, I tell you! What difference does it make how good he is? He’s like a fast race-horse without a heart!”
Damn them—all of them! They knew nothing of him—nothing of what moved him. They had their swift and easy explanation of anything and any one differing from themselves. Yellow! The ugly word kept echoing in his ears. It was false—he knew it. And he would show them it was false; Show them in the only way, the only fashion, that they could understand.
Even against Trudy he was bitter as he went methodically about the business of making ready for the match. She, too—even she couldn’t muster up any faith in him! Even her judgment depended upon results—the most treacherous, the least dependable things in the world! Even she refused to depend upon all she knew of him to refute that monstrous accusation he had heard. So be it, then. He would meet them on their own terms.
And yet, as he went out, at last, to meet Vassall, his eyes sought Trudy as he crossed the porch, and there came to him, as he saw the way she looked at him, the hope that was shining in hers, a curious comfort not to be described.
There was a great burst of cheering from the stands when he appeared; with the crowd he had always been a favorite; the feeling among the insiders of the game had never spread to the great mass of its followers. And as, for a few minutes, he volleyed with Vassall, applause broke out, spontaneously, again and again, at the sheer beauty of his movements, the grace with which he stroked the ball. Here, for once at least, opinion unformed, eyes untrained in the niceties of the game, were as sure, as right, as any. There was a touch of magic about Pat Tredway’s game; there was about its beauty something of the beauty of arrested movement that is caught in the figures upon an old Greek vase.
ONCE the match began'he'and Vassall settled down to their work quickly. From the very start Pat knew that he was at his best. Every stroke was working for him; it seemed that nothing could go wrong. He made no effort, in the beginning, to force the issue—and nothing of the sort, plainly, was in Vassall’s mind. Each was content to win, for a time, on his own service; to content himself, when the other served, with playing up, without an undue effort to overcome that cardinal advantage.
Pat had won the toss of a racket; chosen to serve first; held, so, the advantage of the odd game. And, with Vassall serving, and the score five six in his favor, Vassall gave him his opening, with one of his rare double faults for the first point. At once Pat turned loose all his speed; swept Vassall before him; scored the, game and the first set with a superb cross-court shot that brought a wild cheer from the crowd.
Vassall grinned at him cheerfully across the net. Pat knew, none better, that this was no more than a good start; a player like Vassall was never so dangerous as in the face of a reverse. But Pat was on the crest of the wave now; served and won with ease the first game of the second set; set the crowd wild, then, by breaking through the Englishman’s service again, and gaining so, what was vastly more important than a single game’s lead.
For now all Pat need do was to continue to win his own service; to do so was to , win the set. Upon Vassall was the burden of forcing the play, of trying to recover,
And as Pat was serving now, that was atask to appal any man. He was in complete command of that terrific, highbreaking ball he served; he seemed to be able to place it where he pleased; to force Vassall, again and again to send back weak, high returns that Pat, storming down upon the net, could kill or cut off at his pleasure. Still, as the games went on, following the service now, everything went Pat’s way. He was at his own magnificent best; ran out the set at six-three, with consummate ease.
In the third set Vassall changed his tactics; began to play with extreme care; forced the play into prolonged rallies, with much lobbing. The strain was telling a little on Pat; in his very anxiety to end the match in straight sets he forced his drives a little; tried for kills from positions too difficult to justify the effort; was tricked, once or twice, at critical moments, by Vassall—as keen a tactician as had ever stepped on a court. And in the critical game, on his own service, a bad decision cost him a point; an error of calculation, so slight as to be almost imperceptible, gave Vassall an easy return instead of one impossible, and Pat saw the ball shoot past him on his left as he raced desperately across the court, caught completely out of position. The game was gone—and on the next Vassall won the set, changing from his swift service to a slow one that, for the moment, baffled Pat completely.
Yet even on the porch of the clubhouse, now, from the men who had, an hour before, looked at him askance, there were real cheers for Pat as he and Vassall hurried inside to change into dry clothes. He had played superb tennis, unbeatable tennis, for two sets; the one he had lost had contained none of the sort of playing that had made it possible for any one to call him what he had heard himself called that day—yellow.
But it took no more than the first two games of the fourth set to give warning that something had happened to Pat. He barely went on his own service. But he knew, and, subtly, insensibly, the knowledge ran through the crowd about the court, that something was wrong. Just what'was profoundly mysterious. Yet it was as certain as it was bewildering. The perfect coordination of hand and eye was gone.
And now, time after time, Pat’s long drives, passing shots down the side lines, that, all through the earlier sets, had kept Vassall racing desperately from side to side of his court to achieve bare gets, were out by inches. The low drives that had skimmed the net struck the cord and dropped back on his own side; the lightning service, that, for game after game, had fallen within a foot of his chosen mark, was nearly always out or netted.
TO PAT, struggling against the machine like precision of Vassall’s play and the sudden, unaccountable collapse of his own attack, there came the sense of the crowd’s dismay; its fear for him. This had happened to him before; there was bred in him the utter conviction that to yield to this strange and sudden ineptitude was to compromise with his very honor. To play his game, his-own game, come what might —that was the way for him to follow.
And Vassall, his wits as keen as ever, saw his mood and fed it. He stayed back; drove for the base line; gave Pat, time after time, precisely the sort of shot that, now of all times, he could not master or control.
In Pat, now, as he felt himself fading out, there was alive again the sense of impending defeat—and that other sense— of its insignificance. To lose, if he must— yes. There were worse things. He had done, he was doing, his best. He knew himself;knew,as he knew nothingelse,that if he did not yield, if, come what would he fought on, doing, trying to do, what he knew was the right thing, this phase would pass, as suddenly, as unaccountably, as it had come.
So he played on—into Vassall’s hands! Played on, driving for the corners of the court; staking everything, his first serve gone astray, on another precisely like it— -that tragically often, shared the fate of the first.
Grimly Pat waited for the last set to
begin. Nothing was changed. Vassall served; won the first game. He took the second, against Pat’s service, on the American’s errors; won the third, and assumed, so, a commanding position, by his own fine play.
And now, as he stood, poised, Waiting for Vassall to set himself, in a silence so deep that he could hear the breathing of a linesman behind him, Pat knew the real bitterness of failure. Vassall nodded; Pat flung up a ball; crashed his racket into it; heard the linesman cry, swiftly echoed bji the umpire: “Fault!” And then, in an instant, something snapped in his brain. He had thrown up his hand; he drew it down again; hesitated a moment. He had been about to fling away another point; to risk a double fault. But—wasn’t this what they had meant?
For he knew, in that moment, that he did care whether he won or lost—that, just as Trudy had said, two nights—two ages! —before, nothing in all his life was ever going to mean to him what it would mean to lose or win this set!
He had his choice now—it lay before him, seen clearly for the. first time; To go on—to lose, and take refuge behind his own belief that he must, no matter what the issue, play as he had been taught to play. Or to fling to the winds all save the desire, the need, to outdo, to beat, that smiling Englishman across the net!To fight—no longer just to play a game, but to fight—to give himself, soul and body, heart and brain, muscle and nerve, to the task he had undertaken—the task that, no matter how or why, was his, and his alone, to fulfill!
Once more he tossed up a ball. But this •time he drew his racket across it, gently, cunningly, so that the ball sailed slowly, spinning dizzily, across the net; fell, as Vassall swooped down upon it; broke away, sharply, under his racket, so that, while he returned it, he did so, perforce, feebly—with Pat waiting, ready to skip it past him for as clean a placement as was ever scored.
And now, indeed, Pat began to play a game no one had ever seen him so much as attempt. He matched his wits with Y assail; sought to do, constantly, the unexpected thing—and yet, always, the safe thing, the sure thing—the thing that would make no demand upon his failing powers to which they could not respond. He won his éervice game for his first game of the set; carried the next against • Vassall’s service, to deuce five times before he lost it; won his own game, next time, easily—but lost, once more, on Vassall’s service, and faced the score to two-five as he took up the service again.
As he glanced over toward the stands he saw a constant movement going on. So—they held him beaten already! His own, his only, partisans had turned against him—were going out, before the end! A red mist came before his eyes as he saw that; in his fury he fairly flung himself upon the ball, and saw Vassall lunge desperately toward it as it sped past him for the first clean ace that Pat had serve in the set. Vassall returned the next serve; and Pat’s answering drive raised the chalk in the far corner of the court.
A WILD exultation was in him now.
Again he aced the other cleanly; won the game on a magnificent smash, that sent the ball bounding high over the green wall behind the Englishman. They changed; something in Vassall’s walk, as they passed, brought his teeth together.
Now, as he waited, he did not think of'' winning-—but of not losing. He knew he must not, could not lose. And he faced his last chance as he waited for Vassall to serve. His teeth were bared; his upper lip was drawn back in something like a snarl. He was poisedlike some lithe animal about to spring. Raging, he rhet the ball as it came; drove, it back; rushed to the net; cut off Vassall’s magnificent drive; stopped the ball dead in its rush, so that it fell, a foot beyond the net, dully, heavy as lead, utterly unplayable.
Again and again in that game he was within a stroke, a point, of defeat. But every time he rose to the occasion; drove Vassall back; achieved the impossible. And in the ènd he passed the other cleanly for the game—got back, so, the chance he had thrown away in the very beginning. On his own service he brought the games to five all.
And then, all at once, he knewthat he was again the master of his game—and of the day. Upon Vassall, tiring, balked, in the moment of victory, forced to struggle again for what had been within his grasp, he turned the full power of his finest game; swept through the next two games as though some tyro had opposed him. As Vassall’s last return found the net he dropped his hands; stood still a moment, in the inferno of sound that rose to the skies above the court. He saw Vassall advancing to the net; caught himself then, and went to meet him and take his hand.
“Played, old son—played, indeed!” said Vassall. “I’d have sworn I had you—”
Pat grinned; muttered something. He was, all at once, unutterably weary, completely spent. He listened dully to those who rushed upon him with their congratulations. They crowded to take his hand; they slapped him on the back.
“Ted said to tell you it was worth a broken leg to see you pull that out!” said Ransome. “Gad! Pat—”
Through the din he heard a voice, louder than its owner knew: “And we thought he was yellow!”
He grinned at that; saw, as Ransome flushed, that he, too, had heard it.
“I was!” he said, under his-breath. Trudy’s eyes were shining as he passed close to her, and she stood up, as, just for a moment, he broke out of the line to take her hand. And when, ten minutes later, bathed and dressed, he came back, there was that about her look that made the man beside her mutter some excuse and seek another seat. And all the world had it not been too busy watching Bill Ransome finish the task of making the cup safe for another year, might have marked the way that Trudy, the unapproachable, sat holding Pat Tredway’s hand!